Sunday, March 9, 2014

One Wife Too Many



THE other day there was commotion in my neighbour’s house. This was surprising, because they are a couple who normally keep to themselves. As an inquisitive journalist I went across to find out what the commotion was in honour of.
The door was open and in the plush drawing room sat the elegant lady, her eyes swollen and her pert nose pink. She held a lacy wispy handkerchief to her painted lips and let out short sobs of equal duration. At her feet sat her fat ayah clucking her tongue in sympathy, also at intervals.
The lady looked up, saw me and stepped up the frequency of her sobs. Naturally, I asked her what the matter was. “Tell her, Leelabai,” she told her servant, who gleefully announced, “Saab has married again!”
“So what? A lot of people do,” I said, rather undiplomatically.
“But Saab married without telling Memsahib!” piped in Leelabai.
“Did you hear that? My husband marries again without telling me!” said the lady.
“If he had told you, you wouldn’t have let him!” I said. Logic, I thought. Ignoring me, she went on, “My grocer’s delivery man tells me about my husband’s second wife! Can you imagine the shame? Anyway, why did he have to marry again? Am I ugly? Look at me, what’s wrong with me?”
“Well, you’re OK, I guess, except for the pimple on your nose.”
“Pimple! Should he marry again because of a pimple! What about him? Doesn’t he have a paunch?”
I suggested that she accept the situation gracefully, as suited her status, and avoid gossip.
She thought for a minute before announcing her decision: “He will have to make a choice, Me or Her.” I pointed out that he’d perhaps choose the other one as he had only recently married her.
“So, good luck to him. I’m going to tell him to leave this house. After all, I must get something out of all this. I’m going to live here alone. I’ll keep the 10 servants of course – and live on the memory of his love. Even though he’s a cad, I’ll keep his photograph – you see that life-size one on the wall? I’ll sit before it and mope.”
I left her to begin her satyagraha. When I went home, my husband was walking up and down and was hopping mad that lunch wasn’t ready. I told him I was consoling the madam next door as her husband had married again. My husband stared into space and I thought I saw a gleam in his eye!
I went into the kitchen and began wondering how much it would cost to have a life-size enlargement made of my husband’s photograph.